Transcriptomic profiling of host-parasite interactions in the microsporidian Trachipleistophora hominis

Andrew K. Watson, Tom A. Williams*, Bryony A P Williams, Karen A. Moore, Robert P. Hirt, T. Martin Embley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
398 Downloads (Pure)



Trachipleistophora hominis was isolated from an HIV/AIDS patient and is a member of a highly successful group of obligate intracellular parasites.


Here we have investigated the evolution of the parasite and the interplay between host and parasite gene expression using transcriptomics of T. hominis-infected rabbit kidney cells.


T. hominis has about 30 % more genes than small-genome microsporidians. Highly expressed genes include those involved in growth, replication, defence against oxidative stress, and a large fraction of uncharacterised genes. Chaperones are also highly expressed and may buffer the deleterious effects of the large number of non-synonymous mutations observed in essential T. hominis genes. Host expression suggests a general cellular shutdown upon infection, but ATP, amino sugar and nucleotide sugar production appear enhanced, potentially providing the parasite with substrates it cannot make itself. Expression divergence of duplicated genes, including transporters used to acquire host metabolites, demonstrates ongoing functional diversification during microsporidian evolution. We identified overlapping transcription at more than 100 loci in the sparse T. hominis genome, demonstrating that this feature is not caused by genome compaction. The detection of additional transposons of insect origin strongly suggests that the natural host for T. hominis is an insect.


Our results reveal that the evolution of contemporary microsporidian genomes is highly dynamic and innovative. Moreover, highly expressed T. hominis genes of unknown function include a cohort that are shared among all microsporidians, indicating that some strongly conserved features of the biology of these enormously successful parasites remain uncharacterised.

Original languageEnglish
Article number983
Number of pages20
JournalBMC Genomics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2015


  • Evolution
  • Gene expression
  • Host-parasite interactions
  • Microsporidia
  • Transcriptomics

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